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 Birds Scene: Wood Storks

Birds Scene

Old "Flint Head"

"Flint Head" is one of the old nicknames for the Wood Stork. I think this came about due to the featherless black head that easily makes this bird one of our ugliest wading birds. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, which was proven in 2006 as 11,000 pairs mated and nested throughout its southeast range.

This most successful nesting season has been attributed to their special way of catching prey. They need drying up wetlands and ponds to trap fish and our dry January through March that year was perfect for gathering the easy prey and accounted for very successful nesting.

In West Pasco approximately 300 pairs nested successfully that year with some fledging 3 and 4 young per nest. This fledging success averaged over 2 young per nest throughout the watched colonies. This number was well above the 1.5 fledging rate scientists are looking at for a self sustaining and recovering population. However, the 2008 breeding season brought us only 4 nesting rookeries locally with about the same number as 2007. South Florida still did not have much nesting success, because the storks are going further north to nest now; into Georgia and the Carolinas.

The Wood Stork may follow the Bald Eagle and become another "Endangered Species" that will warrant removal from the list. But more good years of nesting are needed and, as often happens, a bad weather year could mean a crash in nesting numbers.

When you see "Flint Head" in your back yard marvel how such a large bird has found a way to survive amongst us and all the changes we have brought. Remember that awkward appearing bill is designed to catch fish in muddy water by being so sensitive. If it touches a fish it snaps shut catching the prey. Resist the urge to feed these large birds as they visit your yards and piers. They are so well equipped to catch medium size fish that handouts are not needed and their bill were not designed to react to handouts like hot dogs!

Contributed by Ken Tracey,

Posted On Saturday, August 9, 2008

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